Vata derives from the elements of Space and Air and translates as “wind” or “that which moves things”. It is the energy of movement and the force governing all biological activity. Vata is often called the “King of the Doshas,” since it governs the body’s greater life force and gives motion to Pitta and Kapha.
The qualities of Vata are dry, rough, light, cold, subtle, and mobile. A Vata individual will display physical and mental characteristics that reflect these qualities in both a balanced and an imbalanced state.
The same dynamism is found within Vata. Just as the wind in balance provides movement and expression to the natural world, the balanced Vata individual is active, creative, and gifted with a natural ability to express and communicate. When the wind in a Vata type rages like a hurricane, negative qualities quickly overshadow these positive attributes.
Due to the mobile and volatile nature of Vata, nearly 60 percent of all listed disorders in classical Ayurvedic texts are associated with this dosha. While most chronic disorders are linked to Vata, common Vata disorders, such as constipation, and low energy, respond quickly to dietary, medicinal, and lifestyle changes. After adjusting to a new regimen, Vata individuals often follow their course of treatment with great dedication and enthusiasm.
Vata governs movement in the body, the activities of the nervous system and the process of elimination. Vata influences the other doshas.
Qualities of Vata: Cold, light, dry, irregular, rough, moving, quick, changeable
If Vata dosha predominates, movement and change are characteristic of your nature. You will tend to always be on the go, with an energetic and creative mind. As long as Vata is in balance, you will be lively and enthusiastic, with a lean body.
Physical Characteristics: Those with a predominance of Vata dosha are usually have a thin, light frame and excellent agility. Their energy comes in bursts, and they are likely to experience sudden bouts of fatigue. Vatas typically have dry skin and hair and cold hands and feet. They sleep lightly and their digestion can be sensitive. When the Vata dosha becomes imbalanced, it manifests in the body as weight loss, constipation, hypertension, arthritis, weakness, restlessness, and digestive challenges.
Emotional Characteristics: Vatas love excitement and new experiences. They are quick to anger but also to forgive. When Vatas are in balance, they are energetic, creative, and flexible. They also take initiative and are lively conversationalists. When unbalanced, they are prone to worry and anxiousness and often suffer from insomnia. When they feel overwhelmed or stressed, their response is, “What did I do wrong?”
If excessive stress in your life leads to your Vata force becoming imbalanced, your activity will start to feel out of control. Your mind may race, contributing to anxiety and insomnia. You may start skipping meals, resulting in unintended weight loss, and your digestion may become irregular. If you notice these early symptoms of a Vata imbalance, slow down, take time to meditate, don’t skip meals, and get to bed earlier. A regular lifestyle routine helps ground Vata so you are not carried away into the ethers.
- Vata is cold, light, irregular, dry, and always changing. To balance Vata, make choices that bring warmth, stability, and consistency to your life.Try to get to bed before 10pm, awaken by 6am, and eat your meals at regular times.
- Avoid becoming chilled. Wear adequate clothing appropriate for the season and keep your head covered when the weather is cold.
- Perform a daily self-abhy massage using warmer, heavier oils like sesame and almond.
- They experience periods of high energy, but they also tire easily. Light exercise that enhance balance and flexibility is best for a Vata body type. Take care not to push yourself too far and exceed the limits of your energy. Beneficial activities for Vatas include: yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, walking and short hikes, light bicycling, light tennis, golf, dance, and aerobics.
- Fresh ginger root is beneficial and can be used frequently. During the cool weather, sip ginger tea throughout the day.
- Be certain that your bowels move regularly on a daily basis.
- Favor soothing, calming music.
- Touch and be touched regularly by the people you love. Get regular massages treatments.
- Favor warm colors in your clothing and environment such as earth colors, pastels, browns, and warm yellows.
- Favor aromas that are sweet, heavy, and warm. Examples include basil, bay, cinnamon, citrus, cloves, frankincense, lavender, pine, sage, and vanilla.
Vata-Balancing Nutritional Guidelines
According to ayurveda, it is important to eat foods that have a balancing effect upon the dominant dosha or that will pacify (stabilize) a dosha that has become excessive or aggravated. Since Vata is drying, cooling and light, favor foods that are oily, warming, or heavy. The best tastes to pacify Vata are sweet, salty and sour. Minimize foods that are pungent, bitter, or astringent.
- To balance the lightness of Vata, eat larger quantities, but don’t overeat.
- All sweeteners pacify Vata and may be taken in moderation.
- Fats and oils are beneficial in the digestive system and help reduce Vata. Use up to 3 teaspoons daily of ghee or extra virgin olive oil. Learn how to make ghee here.
- All low-fat dairy products are recommended. Milk is easier to digest when warm or heated.
- Rice and wheat are the best grains for balancing Vata. Reduce the amount of barley, corn, millet, buckwheat, and rye.
- Favor sweet, heavy fruits such as: bananas, avocados, mangoes, apricots, plums, berries, coconut, figs, grapefruit, orange, lemon, melons, papaya, peaches, pineapples, rhubarb, kiwi, dates, nectarines and dried fruits.
- Eat fewer dry or light fruits such as apples, cranberries, pears, and pomegranates. To ease digestion, fruits are best eaten lightly cooked or sautéed or eaten alone.
- Cooked vegetables are best. Raw vegetables should be minimized. Favor Asparagus, beets, and carrots. Other vegetables may be taken in moderation if cooked in ghee or extra virgin olive oil, including peas, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, and sweet potatoes.
- Sprouts and cabbage tend to produce gas and should be minimized.
- Dairy products pacify Vata. For optimal digestion, boil milk before drinking it and consume it while warm.
- Spices that pacify Vata include cardamom, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, salt, cloves, mustard seed, basil, asafetida, cilantro, fennel, oregano, sage, tarragon, thyme, and black pepper.
- All varieties of nuts are recommended.
- Beans can aggravate Vata, so minimize your consumption of them, with the exception of tofu and mung bean dahl.
- For non-vegetarians, use fresh, organic chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs.
Note: Favoring heavy foods such as sweets, oils, and richer foods may contribute to weight gain. Focus on natural grains, and heavy, moist fruits and vegetables. Keep your sweets to a minimum and use low-fat milk products. Cook your food for easy digestion.